Search Unity

  1. We would like to hear your feedback about Unity and our products. Click here for more information.
    Dismiss Notice

demo mode/version for online games?

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by JoeStrout, Dec 29, 2014.

  1. JoeStrout

    JoeStrout

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2011
    Posts:
    7,951
    I'm not completely convinced a game has to have a free tier. Neither Minecraft nor KSP is free, and those both huge successes (and happen to be ones I'm most familiar with, as my boys can't stop playing them). They do each have a free demo. So I'm doing the same with High Frontier: I have a free demo, which plays exactly like the full game, except that it writes nothing to disk. So you can play it as long as you keep it open, but when you quit, your colony is poof-gone.

    That same demo mode probably wouldn't work for an online game, but maybe you could do something similar?

    In fact even with free games, I get annoyed when there is a long start-up process. Typically I stumble across or hear about a game that might be interesting, but I'm a very busy person and recognize that most games are junk, so my goal is to determine whether this particular game is or is not junk as quickly as possible. I'll typically give it 5 or 10 minutes, and so if I start with 3 minutes of filling out forms, creating accounts, verifying my email address, etc., I'm annoyed before I even get into the game itself.

    So! Can we design a demo mode for a multiplayer online game, that accomplishes these goals:
    1. Gets a curious potential customer to the fun bits as quickly as possible.
    2. Gives them a good feel for what it's like to play the full game.
    3. Limits them in some important way, so they are motivated to pay for the full game.
    I'm thinking something like: you launch the game, click "Play as Guest," and you're randomly assigned one af a variety of guest characters. No account set-up, no character creation, no choices to make; just Hello, here you are and start playing now.

    That could be it — as in High Frontier, you can play as much as you want, without restrictions, except that as soon as you log off, that demo character disappears, and you get a completely different one when you play again.

    The only problem I see here is malevolent users... they would love this system, wouldn't they? This leads to putting various restrictions on the guests, such as unable to talk, unable to attack players (if there's PvP), etc. But then they're not really getting the full experience of playing the game. Not sure what to do about that. Maybe they can talk only in certain guest areas, heavily populated by smart NPCs (who will talk back if you're nice, and ignore you if you attempt to grief)?

    Then there's the flip side, registered players who like to grief the guests. Especially if (for example) they can attack the guests and the guests can't attack back, or simply aren't effective because the guests are always level 1. This will probably be less prevalent, since having to pay for the game right away discourages most such low-lifes, but it will still happen from time to time.

    Anyway, what do y'all think? Can you make an online game pay-to-play, while having a free demo mode that's close enough to the "real thing" to sell it?
     
  2. Teila

    Teila

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2013
    Posts:
    6,629
    Well...it all depends on the audience. Some folks will be fine with a demo that gives them a feel for the game with restrictions. Some might actually like this. I imagine the paying customers would probably rather do away with free customers all together. :)

    I guarantee you will get people post here that no one will pay for an MMO anymore, it all must be free, no restrictions, just use a store to monetize to pay for servers and service.

    Personally, I want a certain audience so am willing to allow free with limitations and pay accounts with benefits that make sense within the context of the game. Essentially, in doing so the two groups would be playing together but essentially be playing a different game to some degree. It makes sense in the context of our game.

    Of course, we are asking for people to play the game and pay to do so eventually. You are right in that they need to be able to jump in and play, experience the game and decide whether they want to continue. You have some good ideas that I haven't considered.
     
    JoeStrout likes this.
  3. k1mset

    k1mset

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2012
    Posts:
    58
    You could make it so Guest players could only talk and PVP with other Guest players, this keeps people who paided to play the game away from the damage and harrassment that is sure to follow the Guest Players, or keep them in a entirely seperate area, if they choose to come to the paid area with other players, they lose the ability to talk to other players, pvp, trade, ect. This kind of 'quarintines' the guests from the paid players, yet still gives them the guy to try out for free, without them having the ability to cause havoc on the paid players (ex: ganking, scaming, account phishing, ect.)
     
  4. Teila

    Teila

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2013
    Posts:
    6,629
    Do guest players need to have access to PvP? I ask because PvP isn't all that different from one game to the next. What is there to demo? Combat maybe? Could that be done in a more controller situation? If the demo is set up for a training area essentially, then could the PvP be simply dueling/sparring between characters?

    I have started games in newbie areas and was immediately killed by someone, before I could take more than a few steps. Needless to say, if this happened to me in a demo, I might be much less likely to come back. Yeah, those that love that sort of thing might, but if your game is more well rounded and you want more than PvPers, then that would not be a nice welcome.
     
  5. JoeStrout

    JoeStrout

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2011
    Posts:
    7,951
    Yes, that's a good point. I'm leaning more now towards starting guests in a special guest area, not accessible by regular players and populated mainly by NPCs (plus maybe some customer-service reps there to make sure the guests don't get stuck).

    It should probably be possible for guests to bypass most of the guest area and make a beeline for the "real" world if they want. But maybe they have to first talk to some NPC and admit understanding that once they step out into the real world, their safety isn't guaranteed.

    On the other hand, suppose somebody does pony up the money, and starts as a fresh new character... you have the same problem (as you pointed out): higher-level jerks can kill them right away. Preying on newbies is considered good sport by some, I guess. So, if you solve this for newbies, the same solution ought to apply to guests too.

    Personally, I'd be inclined to make PvP impossible except in special areas (e.g. an "arena" where players explicitly go to fight). Or, if it's generally possible, make it have pretty serious consequences, especially if the victim is a low-level character. The gods are watching, and get wrathy with murderers in some way.